Aybar's RBI single gives KC closer Davis his 1st blown save in finale
By Robert Falkoff
Special to MLB.com |
KANSAS CITY -- The ninth inning of Sunday's loss to the Royals was a microcosm of the Braves' season. They were scrappy and kept fighting. But in the end, they didn't get the sweet reward of a victory as the Royals pulled out a 4-2 walk-off win on Kendrys Morales' two-run homer in the 13th.
Down 2-0 against All-Star closer Wade Davis, Atlanta managed to overcome long odds by handing Davis his first blown save of the season with a two-run ninth. A team that came in 0-21 when trailing after eight innings saw the first four men reach base. Ender Inciarte singled to center and Chase d'Arnaud walked. Then, Mallex Smith lined an RBI hit to right before being caught between first and second on the ill-advised notion that he could stretch a single into an extra-base hit. Still, the Braves forced extra innings on Erick Aybar's RBI single.
Was that rally something for a young team to build on? Or do those type things only matter when you finish the deal?
The Braves lost two of three to the defending World Series champs, but were within a play here or a better decision there of getting their first series win since mid-April.
"We played well, other than the last inning where they walked us off and the eighth inning [Friday]," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We did a lot of good stuff. It's just a shame that you walk out of here having lost two of three."
The growing pains of a young club were evident even in the ninth-inning rally.
Had it not been for Smith's over-aggressiveness on the bases, the Braves might well have grabbed the lead against Davis, who suffered a blown save for the first time since July 12, 2015.
"We could have cashed it in, but we came back and battled," said Braves starter Matt Wisler, who logged 7 1/3 strong innings in a no-decision. "Hopefully, we can start turning that into wins."
The Braves weren't intimidated by the stats which showed that Davis entered the game having limited opponents to an .083 batting average.
"We just wanted to stay alive," Smith said. "Put good at-bats together and pass it down to the next man."
Those sentiments were echoed by d'Arnaud.
"We had a plan," d'Arnaud said. "Ender had a great at-bat. I just wanted to be as short to the ball as possible and he walked me on four pitches. Mallex came up big and got that hit. I thought for sure he was going to get a double, but I guess the right fielder was playing fairly shallow."
Aybar's clutch hit tied it, but in the end, Atlanta couldn't look back and celebrate.
"I feel like we always have a chance, especially today," d'Arnaud said. "Unfortunately, they came out on top."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com based in Kansas City. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.